Vajpayee can stage a comeback as PM again!

Vajpayee, 81, goes on diet!

Jyoti Basu 93 and fit! Others, Incumbent Chief Ministers, Achuthanandan, 83, M.Karunanidhi, 83, are still active. So, Vajpayee, 81 also wants to become active in politics again, so he has started on diet and is shedding weight, already shed nine kilos, and now walks briskly in his compound and wants to become, may be once more PM, why not?

Vajpayee is impressed, says news reports about these two older CMs and so the former PM might have had his own ideas about staging a comeback! Seeing the disarray in which the UPA government under Dr.Manmohan Singh finds itself, the chances look bright for a well-respected Vajpayee to occupy the office of such high powers and privileges. In my opinion Vajpayee can bring back to India the lost prestige of the office of the Prime Minister, which under Dr.Singh somehow had lost its luster. This is no reflection on the personal qualities of the incumbent PM but somehow the academic-turned bureaucrat-turned Prime Minister is not able to grow in the office.

The latest loss of face over the PSU disinvestment with the much two younger members of the Cabinet, Dayanidhi Maran & co, with the Health Minister also making a mess of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences a thing of mockery, the current political dispensation in Delhi displays the inherent contradictions, both of ideologies and principles of governance as well as the clash of age, the younger men seem to be mere protégées of ambitious uncles and fathers, rather than age and youth based on merit. Maran had badly done now, with the Cabinet decision being bad a joke with advising his uncle to play brinkmanship with the Central Government’s very stability and in the process contributing to the lowering of the image of the country as an emerging economic and political power.

The point I want to make here is that politics is so important in everyone’s life. Politics is often left out of any education and cultural debate. Every educator of some consequence today is a politician! More and more politicians are now entering the education sector as a lucrative business. And also politics is becoming a field of making ill-gotten wealth and a business. More and more politics is seen as a family business Politics is becoming a dynastic politics. And in all these developments the serious loss if for the public, the loss is real for the poor and the weaker sections of the society.

What worries me is the trend towards making politics such an evil, a source of all evils. We can see the quick fall of all legitimacies in the current political developments.

The Cabinet of Dr.Singh is filled with not competent men. Even already under Vajpayee we saw the coalition government making as one of taking on board the representatives of coalition partners. Now, under Singh, the Cabinet was filled by family members of politicians whose political credentials were always suspect.

First, there were the ‘tainted’ ministers. This was soon ignored or conveniently forgotten. Then, we saw the roles of other ministers. The two parties that are now in the news, for the wrong reasons, are the DMK and the PMK. The PMK is a blatant caste party. It has no ideology whatever. So, the father put his son, untried, though a qualified doctor as health minister. By all accounts under his leadership, the health ministry has no report card we can all proud about. The AIIMS controversy brought to public glare the seriousness of the progress on some serious diseases front. Now, the minister made an ugly scene and the very credibility of the medical administration had been undermined.

Much more serious is the loss of face for the Prime Minister in the PSU disinvestment fiasco. The DMK Youngman, Maran, had proved his immaturity, first by not  enhancing the Cabinet decision’s sanctity, second by advising his uncle, the DMK chief, not to have resorted to brinkmanship. The DMK chief,83,five times Chief Minister, and he had been a partner of the NDA regime, at any other time and in any other party that would have been a sacrilege but not in the DMK. Such a sudden switch of loyalties caused so much heartburn in the die-hard elements of the party, nurtured on the diet of EVR and Anna but not for MK, the new phenomenon of a politics of betrayal and blackmail. His professed credo all his life was anti-Hindi, anti-Brahmin, anti-North and what have you, and then suddenly jumping ship just to grab power at any cost was typical of the man.

And now, with all the past allegations of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, his known stand on Sri Lankan Tamils etc he had projected a new found love for the Congress party and that surprised  many. Now, at the very moment when delicate issues are facing the Central Government, the DMK chief must have played a more positive and understanding role. Instead, he proved his skills in double speak, double acts. As his formidable Opponent, Jayalalitha, knows and says so, DMK chief’s eyes are only on how to be a winner all times. He might be eyeing even the Third Front option. Otherwise, how can such an aged and experienced political leader, who is now dependent upon Congress support for his minority government) who he dares to embarrass the Central Government in such a blatant manner?

The point I want to raise is: is age and experience enough to give leader wisdom? Not necessarily. See Karunakaran We have to see the new trends in politics. That is to enter politics and then project one’s sons and daughters. Karunakaran in Kerala, Deve Gowda in Karnataka, and in TN we see this trend had taken the ugly turn. So, too the many politicians who look upon politics as their family fiefdom.

A five-time Chief Minister of a State holds out a threat to the incumbent Prime Minister of a country with a brinkmanship style way! And he is advised so badly by a young and inexperienced man! The loss of face, the country’s image abroad is all no matters of any concern by such action! The newspapers have rightly condemned the Chief Minister’s brinkmanship; the Deccan Herald almost termed it as blackmail!

Youth power we all talk about. And there are so many young men now in politics, in Parliament and in the State  Assemblies This is a welcome development  and yet India is yet to see a Pitt, the Younger to justify the faith in young political leaders. The blame starts with the Gandhi family, with Indira Gandhi and the one redeeming feature of Sonia Gandhi politics is that she is acutely sensitive not to project her son so early in his career. That is the best feature of the present political scenario!

See, Maran or Dr.Anbumani are not even seen and heard outside their states. They are hovering round their state and they don’t look at all India as their charge. Then, Sonia Gandhi too has to do much introspection. What is the point of having only one man as a Law Minister for some 25 years! Is there any fairness in such blatant acts? And some of the present Cabinet Ministers too are there just to placate Sonia’s requirements. These are very unfair approaches to high State policy that must always be in the largest public interest.

In many instances, the public interest is not self-evident! That must be seen as taking its mandate very seriously. There must be some place for serious ideas and serious party deliberations. Intellectuals must be inducted into the party and government, not just people who don’t command any public respect. The same goes for the Rajya Sabha nominations. Is there any serious search for talent in the country? Is there any indication the top duo or trio are seriously thinking of bigger goals, bigger visions?

So, when the news came about Vajpayee getting himself ready for a return to active politics, I am sure many would welcome his return, if and when that happens. For, whatever be our political beliefs, we have to acknowledge the fact that only under Vajpayee India acquired a new standing in the eyes of the world. USA became closer, first Bill Clinton and then George Bush came to see Indian through their interaction with Vajpayee who rose to the occasion. On his visit to Russia at St.Petersburg, we Indians saw the rare spectacle George Bush being seated next to Vajpayee and with so many world leaders watching we saw the full stature of the Indian Prime Minister raising sky high. In dealing with Pakistan also we saw a new high in Indo-Pakistan peace process.

The point is that even in such a field like economic reforms, it was thee NDA that gave the push in some basic directions. The National Highways project would remain Vajpayee’s enduring legacy. Even the disinvestment process started well in his time. There were so many attempts, so much of resistance for disinvestment and yet, Vajpayee never gave room for the loss of face as suffered under Dr.Singh.

It is a sad thought that Dr.Singh with all his reputation for economic expertise didn’t succeed in educating the public and the allies about his core economic vision. Nobody knows for sure what Dr.Singh believes in. He has not written any books or published any papers or columns and shared his stands on some basic issues. That is why they, the allies or the ‘boys’ from the allies played truant and started going astray!

Even P.Chidambaram failed to save the Prime Minister. FM’s credibility is also questionable. He came through the backdoor, by betraying the very party, which he and the late Mooppanar founded and which nurtured him in the first place.
Everyone knows that the Congress party itself under Sonia Gandhi is a contrived edifice, there are no elected elements, no structure at all, everyone is nominated from the top to the bottom of the pyramid and as for any ideology or vision, it is a big joke.

The leaders and activists with a mass base are carefully weeded out and those who participate or co-operate in this weeding operation are rewarded. So, we see the very absence of any moral or other legitimacy for the ministers who adorn the Cabinet. Some are plain ‘palace workers’. The country is witnessing so many illegitimacies and so many wrongs, done and initiated to serve lots of extraneous ends, not connected with the business of transparent governance. So, how can Dr.Singh pretend to command any respect? The allies too know this and that is why the present plight. The UPA’s continuation in the present avatar is a conspiracy of silence on the parts of all concerned. If anything goes wrong, nobody is going to shed any tears for the present arrangement. The office of profit Bill is only one manifestation of so much injustice to legitimate political service.

India needs leaders of much stature to lead the country in the new century. Every Prime Minister need not be an expert as such. But he or she needs to be of persons of high stature. There must be gravitas, their very visage must inspire confidence and command respect. Unfortunately, as on date Dr.Singh’s image is very poor. It is the “boys and men, immature boys and disgruntled men” who had   conducted themselves so thoughtlessly and in this episode, we find the regional leaders, more so the DMK, had exposed itself as a highly irresponsible one.
It is easy to blame individuals. So, we don’t blame Sonia Gandhi or Dr.Singh or for that matter the regional allies for the present discomfiture of the Central Government.

Many academics have given their comments. Prof. Bhanu Pratap Mehta (JNU), for instance, blames Dr.Singh for not being able to give any economic vision. This is so true. But then there are other aspects too. The Congress party and the major parties themselves haven’t given much introspection to what needs to be done to take the country forward. The BJP is yet to emerge as a coherent party. The Left, though they failed to think in any innovative forms, they at least stood by the Government. The regional parties, all caste and narrow chauvinistic ethnic entities, have to be carefully studied and kept in their niche and not trusted for giving India any additional strength. They have nuisance value and that must be understood and dealt with in such and such manner!

One source of great strength for India in the present context is that the economy is driven by some strong fundamentals. The private sector is booming, the IT revolution had changed the landscape; the very growth of Indian talent is very much propelling the economy towards more open and liberal ways. A great country and a great economy of course need much sagacious leadership, we need to regulate and direct the resources to some well-defined goals. There are indications that our society and public opinion is mature enough to vote for and against the right kind of parties and individuals.

So, there is much room for optimism, in spite of the political hiccups!

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